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Purchasing Quality Hay


J.W. Schroeder, Extension Dairy Specialist

Severe forage shortages for North Dakota dairy producers have occurred because of greater demands on existing feed supplies due to increased consumption as a result of cold weather, snow-blocked hay fields and country roads limiting access to existing hay supplies and greater buying pressure from out of state dairy producers trying to lock-in their forage needs. Forage is critical in dairy diets.

Midwest dairy farmers are buying 5 to 7 pounds/cow/day of excellent quality hay (relative feed values > than 160) and paying prices of $95 to $170 per ton. Using the University of Wisconsin Feed Val program, the value for 19 percent crude protein alfalfa was valued at $96 before adjusting for any waste. The following comparison table is an attempt to put a comparative value on some of the forages you may be forced to consider to maintain minimum forage levels in your dairy diets. Note the several assumptions listed. Use the table as a means of comparing different forages for feed value. The table is not intended to set market prices, but for users to compare various forages for their replacement value in a diet. BE SURE to consult your dairy nutritionist when altering your diets so they meet minimum fiber levels as well as the requirements for energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Break-even prices and comparative feed values of some forages (based on crude protein, energy, calcium and phosphorus).

Forage Value Value $/Ton--as Fed    
  ($/cwt DM) Feeding Loss (%)    
    0 7.5 15
Alfalfa (19% CP) $5.45 $96 $91 $83
Alfalfa (16% CP) $4.89 $88 $81 $75
Alfalfa (13% CP) $4.34 $78 $72 $66
Alf-Grass, Mature (7% CP) $4.07 $73 $68 $62
Grass, Mature (12% CP) $3.40 $61 $57 $52
Corn Silage -Excellent (8.2% CP) $4.12 $29 $27 $25
Corn Silage- Fair (7.5% CP) $3.83 $27 $25 $23
Corn Silage 2/10 lb Urea (11.5% CP) $4.44 $31 $29 $26
Oats and Peas $4.97 $35 $32 $30
Small Grain, Early (12.6% CP) $4.49 $31 $26 $27
Sorghum-Sudan, Late (8.5% CP) $3.81 $27 $25 $23

Assumptions: shelled corn @ $2.50 bu, SBM (44%) @ $180/ton, limestone @ $7/cwt, dicalcium phosphorus @ $19/cwt. University of Wisconsin Feed Val Programs

Iowa State specialists developed similar equations for pricing forages considering energy ($2.50 per bushel for corn) protein ($180 per ton for soybean meal), and fiber ($75 per ton for average hay quality). High quality hay value was worth about $95 per ton using the Iowa system.

Energy:.057 (constant) x $80/ton (shelled corn) = $ 5.07
Protein: .191 (constant) x $180/ton (soybean meal) = $34.38
Fiber: .742 (constant) x $70/ton (average hay = $55.65

Total of $95.10